Monday, August 30, 2010

"Adieu, False Heart" - Arthur Smith Trio


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Five: "Adieu, False Heart" performed by The Arthur Smith Trio. Recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina on January 26, 1938.

Born near Bold Springs, Tennessee on April 10, 1898, "Fiddlin'" Arthur Smith learned to play violin at an early age. Married at sixteen, Smith's wife, Nettie, became a performing partner. Later, their daughter, Lavonne, would perform with several of Smith's groups.

Smith performed mainly at local dances and fiddler's conventions in his early years. However, a job working for a railroad company in Dickson, Tennessee involved considerable travel, and Smith met and was influenced by fiddlers from other regions. He began competing in fiddle contests, winning several.

Smith made his debut on the Grand Ole Oprey on December 23, 1927, and became a regular in 1932. Smith's association with the Oprey would make him one of the most influential country fiddlers, his long bow style bearing considerable influence on old time and bluegrass players.

Smith formed several groups over the years, some of which featured the Delmore Brothers, as well as Kirk and Sam McGee (who were associated with Uncle Dave Macon, another Oprey veteran). The best known group Smith performed with was the Dixieliners.

Smith made his recording debut in 1935, along with the Delmore Brothers. He made many recordings over the next several years, recording for such labels as Bluebird, Victor, and Montgomery Ward.

Smith continued to work full-time for the railroad while also pursuing a career as a working musician. By 1938, the year this recording was made, the stress had caused a troublesome drinking problem that led to his suspension from the Grand Ole Oprey. With Roy Acuff's help, Smith was able to return to the Oprey and to recordings.

Smith had a brief career as a film actor during the 1940s, appearing in low budget westerns. His film career lasted until 1948, after which Smith signed with the newly formed Capitol Records. After a short stint on Capitol, Smith retired to Nashville where he worked as a carpenter.

One of Smith's songs, "Beautiful Brown Eyes," was covered by Roy Acuff during the early '50s. The recording was a hit, and led to several other cover versions. The other recording artists, however, treated the song as a folk song in the Public Domain and did not credit or pay royalties to Smith. Smith successfully sued and received a lump sum.

In 1957, Smith staged a comeback, recording with Merle Travis, as well as Kirk and Sam McGee. The recordings with the McGee Brothers were issued on an LP that was released to much acclaim in the mid-60s. in 1965, Smith and the McGee Brothers appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. Smith made his final appearance in 1969, before retiring for the last time. He died on February 28, 1971.

"Adieu, False Heart" is a folk song that likely dates from the 1860s or 70s. It was first collected in Campell County, Virgina in 1931. For many years, Smith's recording was the only one of this song.


Adieu false heart, since we must part.
May the joy of the world go with you.
I've loved you long with a faithful heart,
But I never anymore can I believe you.

I've seen a time I'd have married you,
And been your constant lover.
But now I'll gladly give you up
For one whose heart's more truer.

My mind is like the constant sun.
From the east to the west it ranges.
Yours is like unto the moon.
It's every month a-changing.

When I lay down to take my rest.
No scornful morn to wake me.
I'll go straight ways unto my grave.
Just as fast as time can take me.


This recording features Arthur Smith on vocal and fiddle, with Alton Delmore on guitar and Rabon Delmore on tenor guitar. The tenor guitar is a four stringed instrument, similar in design to the guitar. It is sometimes smaller than a standard guitar, but not always. It is believed to have been invented around the turn of the twentieth century. Tenor guitars were developed so that players of the four stringed banjo could double on guitar.

"Adieu, False Heart" is, essentially, a kiss-off to a faithless lover. The song is sung here in a deadpan fashion. Smith betrays no trace of sadness, which goes along with the lyric's acceptance that the lover is false and needs to go.

"Adieu, False Heart" was the title track of a 2006 album by Linda Ronstant and Ann Savoy.

Like several of the other artists who have appeared on this volume of the Anthology, Smith was primarily associated with radio.

"Adieu, False Heart" is the second of two songs in a row recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Wild Carrot performing a version of "Adieu, False Heart" in 2008.



Download and listen to Arthur Smith Trio - "Adieu, False Heart"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Down on the Banks of the Ohio" - The Blue Sky Boys


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Four: "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" performed by The Blue Sky Boys. Recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 16, 1936.

The Blue Sky Boys were an American country music act consisting of Earl and Bill Bolick. Bill Bolick was born on October 28, 1917 in East Hickory, North Carolina. Earl Bolick was born a little over two years later, on November 16, 1919. Earl and Bill were the fourth and fifth out of six children born to the Bolicks. Their religious parents taught them to sing hymns, likely teaching them to sing in the close harmonies that characterized their sound. As children, Bill and Earl both learned to play guitar, with Bill doubling on banjo and Earl doubling on mandolin. Later on, Bill took up the mandolin, making it his primary instrument, and Earl concentrated on guitar.

In 1935, the Bolick brothers began performing on WWNC in Asheville, North Carolina as members of the Crazy Hickory Nuts, changing their name to the Good Coffee Boys later on that same year (the band's personnel, which included fiddler Homer Sherrill, was unchanged. The program's sponsorship changed, however, which necessitated the name change). The Bolicks and Sherrill relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in 1936, where they performed on WGST as the Blue Ridge Hillbillies. The Bolicks left the group soon after, however, and Sherrill carried on under the Blue Ridge Hillbillies name.

While in Atlanta, the Bolicks auditioned for RCA, where they were initially turned down for being too similar to the Monroe Brothers. The A&R man, Eli Oberstein, finally agreed to hear them and, having done so, signed them on the spot. The Bolicks adopted the name The Blue Sky Boys, taking their name from "the Land of the Blue Sky," a term often used to describe western North Carolina.

At their first recording date for RCA, on June 16, 1936, the Blue Sky Boys recorded several sides, including "Down on the Banks of the Ohio." Their first coupling, "Sunny Side of Life" b/w "Where The Soul Never Dies" was an immediate hit. Between 1937 and 1941, the Blue Sky Boys recorded more than 100 sides for RCA, to considerable success. During the second World War, both Bolicks served in the military, returning to recording after the war's end.

Changing musical tastes, and the Bolicks reluctance to keep up with them, led to the Blue Sky Boys retiring in 1951. Bill returned to North Carolina and took a job as a postal clerk. Earl stayed in Atlanta and worked for Lockheed Aircraft. In the early '60s, a reissue of their early material led to a revival of interest in the Blue Sky Boys and the Bolicks made a brief comeback, releasing two LPs of new studio recordings (one secular and one religious), as well as making numerous festival appearances. By the end of the '60s, however, the Blue Sky Boys retired from music for a second time.

Their second retirement lasted until 1975, when the Blue Sky Boys recorded a final record for Rounder, followed by more live appearances. After their final tour, the Bolicks called it quits for good. Bill retired to Longview, North Carolina and Earl to Tucker, Georgia. Earl died on April 19, 1998. Bill died on March 13, 2008.

"Down on the Banks of the Ohio," sometimes simply titled "Banks of the Ohio," is a murder ballad that originated in the United States during the 19th century. It is believed to be related to "Pretty Polly," owing to the similarities in subject matter and mood. It also bears a resemblance to "Ommie Wise," in that both songs have the tragic heroine drowned by her lover. "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" was cataloged by George Malcolm Laws as F5. Laws ballads with the "F" designation are murder ballads.


Come my love, let's take a walk.
Just a little way away.
While we walk along we'll talk,
Talk about our wedding day.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

I drew my knife across her throat,
And to my breast she gently pressed.
"Oh please, oh please, don't murder me,
For I'm unprepared to die you see."

I taken her by her lily white hand.
I let her down and I bade her stand.
There I plunged her in to drown,
And watched her as she floated down.

Returning home 'tween twelve and one.
Thinking of the deed done.
I murdered a girl I love you see,
Because she would not marry me.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.

Next day as I returning home,
I met the sheriff standing in the door.
He said young man come with me and go,
Down to the banks of the Ohio.

Only say that you'll be mine,
And in our home we'll happy be.
Down beside where the waters flow.
Down on the banks of the Ohio.


A highlight of this volume, the Blue Sky Boys' performance of "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" is magnificent. The Bolicks' close harmonies are soothing, except when they lapse into momentary (intentional) dissonance. Their voices are eerily calm, especially when the narrator relates how he "drew [his} knife across her throat," and how the girl pleads for her life. This flatness of affect perfectly embodies the soulless killer, who continually replays his declaration of love over and over again, even after the sheriff arrives to take him away. It's a beautiful and terrifying performance, even more impressive when one considers that it was recorded at their first professional recording session when the two singers were still in their late teens.

Earl sings lead vocal on this track, with Bill providing the tenor part. The Bolicks accompany themselves on guitar (Earl) and mandolin (Bill).

As with Bradley Kincaid, the Blue Sky Boys represented the dominance of the radio during the Depression. They were also considerably younger than most of performers on the original Anthology, even the youngest of whom were born around the turn of the 20th century. When the Bolicks were born, jazz and blues music had already been around for nearly two decades. Recorded music was common and available during the Bolicks' childhood as well. The Bolicks also point forward, to the close harmonies of the Louvin Brothers and the Everly Brothers, and thence to the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. While the Bolicks found themselves eclipsed by the Honky Tonk country music that came to dominate in the late forties and early fifties, their style would echo as far, if not farther, than even the greatest of the Honky Tonk exponents, including Hank Williams. While Williams influenced a generation of male country singers (including George Jones, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard), the Blue Sky Boys (along with the Monroe Brothers and other close harmony acts of the era) would influence singers who would cross over into the world of Rock and Roll, and later Rock music. If the Blue Sky Boys indirectly influenced the Beatles, it is safe to say that their linage extends very far indeed...


The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Before Xanadu and Grease, even before "Have You Never Been Mellow" and "I Honestly Love You," Olivia Newton John recorded a version of "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" (she was also named the CMA's "Female Artist of the Year" in 1974, beating Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Tanya Tucker). Here she is performing the song for German television in 1972...



Download and listen to The Blue Sky Boys - "Down on the Banks of the Ohio"

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Black Jack David" - The Carter Family


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Three: "Black Jack David" performed by The Carter Family. Recorded in Chicago on October 4, 1940. Original issue Conqueror 9574.

For biographical information on the Carter Family, see the entry for "John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man."

"Black Jack David" is a variant of Child 200, "The Gypsy Laddie." It is a traditional Scottish folk tune. James Francis Child dates the earliest printed version of this song to the early 1700s. The first recording of this song was made in 1939 by Cliff Carlisle for Decca. The Carter Family's version came out a year later. It has been recorded literally dozens of times by artists ranging from Woody Guthrie to the White Stripes.

Black Jack David came ridin' through the woods,
And he sang so loud and gaily.
Made the hills around him ring,
And he charmed the heart of a lady.
And he charmed the heart of a lady.

"How old are you, my pretty little miss?
How old are you, my honey?"
She answered him with a silly little smile,
"I'll be sixteen next Sunday.
I'll be sixteen next Sunday."

"Come go with me, my pretty little miss.
Come go with, me my honey.
I'll take you across the deep blue sea,
Where you never shall want for money.
Where you never shall want for money."

She pulled off her high-heeled shoes,
They were made of Spanish leather.
She put on those low-heeled shoes,
And they both rode off together.
And they both rode off together.

"Last night I lay on a warm feather bed,
Beside my husband and baby.
Tonight I lay on the cold, cold ground,
By the side of Black Jack David.
By the side of Black Jack David."


After four appearances on the original Anthology, the Carter Family return with the first of three recordings on volume four. "Black Jack David" is, like the song that preceded it, a ballad which might have found a home on volume one of the original set (although its 1940 recording date puts outside of the perimeters of Smith's original survey). Like "Dog and Gun," however, "Black Jack David" offers a different viewpoint, at least in terms of its treatment of women.

"Black Jack David" tells the story of the titular character, depicted in the song as a free wheeling rambler (a gypsy in the version collected by Child, although no mention is made in this version of David's ethnic background). David charms the heart of a young (not yet sixteen) married woman, who drops everything and leaves her husband and child.

This is similar to "The House Carpenter," but with a significant difference: In that song, the young woman who leaves her husband and child is punished for her transgression when her ship sinks (as was noted in the entry for Ashley's recording, earlier versions of the ballad had a supernatural element. The young wife is punished doubly; first for betraying her dead lover by marrying a house carpenter, and then for leaving her husband for the lover's ghost). The young lady in "Black Jack David" doesn't end so unhappily. In fact, the song's ending is subject for interpretation. The young woman's statement that

"Last night I lay on a warm feather bed,
Beside my husband and baby.
Tonight I lay on the cold, cold ground,
By the side of Black Jack David.
By the side of Black Jack David."


could be interpreted as regret. The contrast of the "warm feather bed" with "the cold, cold ground" certainly seems to imply a value judgment. It could, however, be a simple observation; a statement of fact: "This is how things are." The young woman certainly does not seem to suffer for her decision.

The Carter Family's reading of "Black Jack David" thoroughly Americanizes the song. The 18th century gypsy lad has been transformed into a romantic Western outlaw figure, with more in common with Jesse James than with Robin Hood.

The performance (which features Sara and Maybelle Carter sharing the singing throughout the song, as well as both performing on guitar) also seems to support the theory that the young woman does not regret her decision to elope with Black Jack David. The instrumental performance is buoyant. The two women intertwine their vocals in such a way that it is difficult to distinguish between them. There is none of Sara Carter's usual deadpan fatalism. A.P. Carter, who never participated in performances in any other capacity than as a vocalist, is conspicuously absent from this recording. This is a woman's song, defiant in its defense of the young wife's power to choose her own fate, although she isn't anywhere near as powerful as the lady in "Dog and Gun".

While A.P.'s absence on this recording may not have had anything to do with it, it should be noted that by 1940, Sara and A.P.'s marriage was over.

The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a '70s television performance of "Black Jack David" by Waylon Jennings.



Download and listen to The Carter Family - "Black Jack David"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Dog and Gun (An Old English Ballad)" - Bradley Kincaid


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Two: "Dog and Gun (An Old English Ballad)" performed by Bradley Kincaid. "Vocal and guitar." Recorded in New York on September 14, 1933.

Born on July 13, 1895 in Point Level, Gerrard County, Kentucky, William Bradley Kincaid was a song collector, composer, and radio entertainer. Although born in the south, Kincaid found success working at radio stations in Chicago and Boston.

In 1928, Kincaid published My Favorite Mountain Ballads, a songbook which sold more than 100,000 copies. He recorded primarily for Gennett Records, including (presumably) this recording of "Dog and Gun (An Old English Ballad)."

In 1935, Kincaid went to work at WBZ-AM in Boston, Massachusetts, where he performed with a 22-year old fellow-Kentuckian named Marshall Jones, who would later become a star on the Grand Ole Opry. Noting Jones' bad attitude during early morning broadcasts, Kincaid took to calling Jones "Grandpa," a nickname that stuck and was later used by Jones while performing at the Grand Ole Opry.

In 1945, Kincaid moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he made appearances on the Grand Ole Opry alongside his former band-mate.

Kincaid retired from music in 1950, making only occasional appearances at festivals. In 1971, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Kincaid died on September 23, 1989 in Springfield, Ohio.

"Dog and Gun" is, as the subtitle suggests, a ballad of English origin. It was collected by George Malcolm Laws and was assigned the number "N20." Laws ballads with the "N" designation are "ballads of lovers' disguises and tricks."

There was a young squire who lived o'er the way.
He courted a rich lady so fair and so gay.
To marry this lady it was his intent.
Their friends and relations all gave their consent.

The time was appointed the wedding to see.
The squire chose a farmer his waiter to be.
No sooner had the lady the waiter espied,
He inflamed her true heart. "Oh my true heart!" She cried.

Instead of getting married she went to her bed.
The thought of the farmer still ran through her head.
The thought of the farmer still went through her mind,
And how to gain him she was quickly to find.

A coat, vest and pants did the lady put on.
Away she went hunting with dog and with gun.
She hunted all around where the farmer did dwell,
Because in her true heart she loved him so well.

Often she fired, but nothing she killed.
At length the young farmer came into the field.
To talk with him there it became her intent.
With her dog and her gun on to meet him she went.

"I thought you'd have been to the wedding," she cried,
"To give to the squire his beautiful bride."
"Oh, no," said the farmer, "The truth to you I'll tell.
I couldn't give her to him 'cause I love her so well."

It pleased the young lady to see him so bold.
She gave him her glove that was flowered with gold.
Saying, "Take this, I found it as I did come along.
I found it while hunting with dog and with gun."

The lady went home with a heart full of love,
And gave out the news that she had lost her glove.
"And the one that will find it and bring it to me,
The one that will find it, his bride I will be."

It pleased the young farmer to hear of the news.
Straight 'way with the glove to the lady he goes.
Saying, "Here, honored lady, I've just found your glove.
Will you be so kind as to grant me your love?"

"My love, it is granted." The lady replied.
"I love the sweet breath of the farmer!" She cried.
"I'll be mistress of dairy and milking of cow,
While my jolly young farmer goes whistling to plow."

And when they were married she told of the fun.
How she courted the farmer with dog and with gun.
"And now that I have him so close in my snare,
I love him forever and vow I don't care."


Had Smith included "Dog and Gun" on the original three volume Anthology, it would have been part of the first volume, "Ballads." "Dog and Gun" is different from the ballads included on the first volume, however. While many of the ballads compiled by Smith had female protagonists, none of them had the female character end well. Either the women are murderesses ("Henry Lee," "Fatal Flower Garden"), shrews ("Old Lady and the Devil"), unfaithful wives ("Drunkard's Special," "The House Carpenter"), or victims ("The Butcher's Boy," "The Wagoner's Lad"). Never are the women in these songs masters (or mistresses) of their own destinies. In that regard, "Dog and Gun" stands alone. The lady in this song not only chooses her mate (preferring the young farmer over the squire), but she actively seeks him out, using deception to bypass the social restrictions that would ordinarily prevent a farmer from marrying a rich lady (interestingly, the lady announces that she will be "mistress of dairy and milking of cow," suggesting that she gives up her wealth and social status, rather than having the farmer ascend to her level).

This recording also fits in with the apparent theme of this volume, mentioned in the last entry, of having the music point to the present and future of the music, rather than its past. Kincaid, while he was a recording artist, was primarily known as a radio entertainer. The popularity of radio during the Depression led to a decline in popularity of phonograph records, which would not be fully reversed until after the war. Indeed, many people saw the radio as supplanting the phonograph. After all, the radio required only a one-time purchase. After that, the programming was free and offered variety. A phonograph, however, required the purchase of more and more records, something that Americans during the Depression could ill afford.

Bradley Kincaid, therefore, represented a new medium, even as he performed "an old English ballad."

The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Download and listen to Bradley Kincaid - "Dog and Gun (An Old English Ballad)"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Memphis Shakedown" - Memphis Jug Band


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track One: "Memphis Shakedown" performed by The Memphis Jug Band. Recorded in Chicago on November 8, 1934.

For the better part of a half-century, the three volume Anthology was the last word on Harry Smith's excursion into American Folk Music. Following the Anthology's release, Smith pursued his interests in a number of other directions, including painting, filmmaking, collecting string figures, and producing the first album by the Fugs. The Anthology, however, was the work for which Smith was best known. In 1968, Smith was interviewed by John Cohen and the interview dealt extensively with the Anthology.

As was mentioned in our last entry, Smith was honored with a Grammy award for the Anthology shortly before his death in 1991. Six years later, Smithsonian-Folkways released the Anthology on CD, making it generally available for the first time in many years.

Nevertheless, the Anthology was a work firmly rooted in the past. Listeners could only imagine what subsequent volumes might have sounded like.

The notes for the original Anthology promised that three more volumes were forthcoming which would deal with "examples of rhythm changes between 1890 and 1950." In his 1968 interview with John Cohen, Smith stated that there had been a fourth volume prepared for release along with the first three, but that editorial differences had lead to the project being scrapped.

According to Dick Spottswood, Smith circulated a tape copy of the proposed fourth volume which was eventually released on CD in 2000 on John Fahey's Revenant record label. Presented as a hardcover book, the two-disc set contained (in addition to the music itself) essays by Ed Sanders of the Fugs, Dick Spottswood, Greil Marcus (who had written about the Anthology in his book Invisible Republic, later re-released as The Old, Weird America, and was now treated as a foremost authority on Smith) and John Fahey, as well as excerpts from Cohen's 1968 interview with Smith. The book also included Dick Spottswood's notes for each track.

It is worth noting that Spottswood leaves out discographical information that had been included by Smith in the booklet for the first three volumes. For that reason, while we have the personnel and recording date and location for each track, we don't have the original record label or the catalog numbers. When I have that information, I will include it. When I do not (as with this selection), I will provide the information from the booklet.

The question that immediately presents itself is: What is this set about? As we saw in the previous entries, the first three sets were organized by theme ("Ballads," "Social Music" (secular and religious), and "Songs"). This volume includes examples of all three categories. The overarching theme, in my opinion, is that while all of the previous volumes looked backwards to styles and events that predated the lives of the performers, this volume deals with (what was for the performers) the here and now. In this volume, we were hear topical songs.; References to the political and social realities that faced these artists. We will also hear styles of music that reflect the increasing influence of jazz, bluegrass, and the blues.

For biographical information on Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band, see the entry for "Bob Lee Junior Blues."

"Memphis Shakedown" is an almost entirely instrumental performance. Had this song appeared on the original Anthology, it would have been placed on the first disc of the "Social Music" volume. In his notes, Spottswood points out that the title of the song indicates that the song is a "combines the idea of the hillbilly breakdown with the African American shake or shimmy-shake." It is significant that Smith began this volume, a volume that looks to music's present and future rather than at its past, with a number that defies the genre conventions of the day. This number is a deliberate mixing of white and black styles, a mixture that in two more decades would lead to the birth of rock and roll.

Indeed, the Memphis Jug Band (in their last recording session before a lengthy hiatus brought on by the Depression) rocks on this number. There are no lyrics, but there is quite a bit of shouting and scat singing throughout, provided by guitarists Will Shade and Charlie Burse. The most prominent instrumental presence on this recording is fiddler Charlie Pierce in one of his very few recordings. Pierce saws at the strings, giving the number a down home feel that contrasts sharply with the jazz rhythms performed by Shade and Burse on the guitars, along with Robert Burse on the washboard, and Jab Jones on the jug. Given how opposed much of the Anthology's original audience was to the R&B and rock and roll that emerged during the '50s, it is possible that Smith left this number off of this original set on purpose. Its transgressive mix of white and black styles, so reminiscent of music that would be made by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard some twenty-odd years later, might have sat badly with the purist folk audience that embraced the Anthology in the first few years following its release. Of course, the Anthology predates rock and roll by several years. Nevertheless, the seeds of rock and roll were already planted and starting to blossom in the early '50s.

It is also significant, in hindsight, that Memphis (the likely location of this recording and home of the Memphis Jug Band) would be the home of Sun Records beginning in 1952, and that it was at Sun that Sam Philips, Elvis Presley, Bill Black, and Scotty Moore would, in 1954, mix the potent elements of white and black music, resulting in the genre-busting version of "That's Alright, Mama" that would kick-start Elvis's recording career and bring rock and roll into the mainstream.


The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's the Carolina Chocolate Drops rocking a version of "Memphis Shakedown" on the kazoo...




Download and listen to "Memphis Shakedown" - Memphis Jug Band

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Fishing Blues" - Henry Thomas ("Ragtime Texas")


Set Three: Songs; Disc Two; Track Fourteen: "Fishing Blues" performed by Henry Thomas ("Ragtime Texas"). "Vocal solo with guitar, and whistle." Recorded in Chicago on June 13, 1928. Original issue Vocalion 1249.

For biographical information on Henry Thomas, see the entry for "Old Country Stomp."

Went up on the hill about twelve o'clock.
Reached right back and got me a pole.
Went to the hardware and got me a hook.
Placed that line right on that hook.

Says you've been a-fishin' all the time.
I'm a-goin' fishin' too.
I bet your life your lovin'wife
Can catch more fish than you.

Any fish bite if you've got good bait.
Here's a little somethin' I would like to relate.
Any fish bite if you got good bait.
I'm a-goin' a-fishin', yes, I'm a-goin' a-fishin',
I'm a-goin' a-fishin' too.

Looked down the river about one o'clock.
Spied this catfish swimmin' around.
I got so hungry, didn't know what to do.
I'm gonna get me a catfish too.

Yes, you've been fishin' all the time.
I'm a-goin' a-fishin' too.
I bet your life your lovin' wife
Catch more fish than you.

Any fish bite got good bait.
Here's a little somethin' I would like to relate.
Any fish bite if you got good bait.
I'm a-goin' a-fishin', yes, I'm goin' a-fishin',
I'm a-goin' a-fishin' too.

Put on the skillet, lay down your lid.
Mama gonna cook 'em with the short'nin' bread.

Says you been fishin' all the time.
I'm a-goin a-fishin' too.
I bet your life, your lovin' wife
Can catch more fish than you.

Any fish bite if you've got good bait.
Here's a little somethin' I would like to relate.
Any fish bite if you got good bait.
I'm a-goin' a-fishin', yes, I'm goin' a-fishin',
I'm a-goin' a-fishin' too.


Recorded at the same 1928 as "Old Country Stomp," "Fishing Blues" is the perfect capstone for Smith's monumental Anthology. The song is not heavy or profound (in spite of Greil Marcus' wishful thinking about Thomas providing the "secret of life" in this song). It is a sexual boast thinly disguised by a fishing metaphor. Indeed, in Smith's notes he points out that references to fishing "other than sexual symbolism, are rare in American Folk Music."

Thomas starts the song with a spritely guitar introduction, followed by a noticeable slowing of the tempo once Thomas starts singing. Between the chorus and the verse, Thomas plays the song's theme on the quills. Thomas' voice is thick and some of the lyrics recorded here are conjectural (especially in the last verse). In his notes, Smith points out that "Fishing Blues" incorporates "Shortnin' Bread," a song often assumed to be a genuine example of African American folklore. It was, in fact, written in 1900 by the white poet James Whitcomb Riley.

"Fishing Blues" has been covered by the Loving Spoonful, Taj Mahal, and others.

This brings us to the end of the original three volume Anthology set originally released on six LPs in 1952 by Folkways records. In the next entry, we will begin the "lost" fourth volume released in 2000 by Revenant Records.

At the end of the set's original booklet, Smith lists "a few quotations from various authors that have been useful to the editor in preparing the notes for this handbook."

In elementary music the relation of earth to the sphere of water is 4 to 3, as there are in the Earth four quarters of frigidity to three of water.

- Robert Fludd

Civilized man thinks out his difficulties, at least he thinks he does, primitive man dances out his difficulties.

- R.R. Marrett

Do as thy wilt shall be the whole of the law.
-Aleister Crowley

The in-breathing becomes thought, and the out-breathing becomes the will manifestation of thought.

-Rudolph Steiner

The first quotation comes from Robert Fludd (1574-1637). Fludd was a prominent English doctor who extensively studded the occult. Fludd's inclusion here reflects Smtih's interest in alchemy (Smith was known as the "Paracelsus of the Chelsea Hotel" and claimed that his father had given him a blacksmith's set for his thirteenth birthday, commanding him to turn lead into gold).

The second quote comes from the British ethnologist Robert Ranulph Marett (1866-1943). Marett (whose name is misspelled "Marrett" in Smith's notes) was best known for his work in the field of religious ethnology.

The third quote comes from the famed English occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Smith sometimes hinted that Crowley was his real father.

The last quote comes from Rudolph Joseph Lorenz Steiner (1861-1925), an Austrian philosopher and the founder of Anthroposophy, a spiritual movement that touted an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world that could be accessed through inner development. The movement was linked to Madam Blavatsky's Theosophy, a spiritual movement of which Smith's parents were allegedly followers.

The quotes from Fludd (an alchemist), Marett (an expert on primitive religions), Crowley (an occultist and hedonist), and Steiner (a spiritualist) all hint that Smith's intention in releasing the Anthology was to commit an elaborate act of social magic. Smith has admitted in interviews that he was influenced by Plato's theories on music and its link to social order; that if one changes the music in a culture, one runs the risk of upsetting that culture's social order. It was Smith's stated intention in releasing this carefully sequenced collection of pre-war music into post-war America to bring about change. When Smith was presented with a special Grammy award in 1991, he said: "I'm glad to say that my dreams came true. I saw America changed through music."

This is not to suggest that Smith was an actual magician, but rather to point out that the one place that magic undoubtedly exists is in the human mind. It has long be noted that an idea is the most potent virus. The Anthology helped spark the folk music revival of the late '50s and early '60s, influencing such artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, and Jerry Garcia. If Smith had not released the Anthology, or if he had released it in a different form, the musical landscape might look very different today.

The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Taj Mahal performing a version of "Fishing Blues."



Here's Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops performing a version of "Fishing Blues" complete with quills!



Download and listen to Henry Thomas - "Fishing Blues"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"The Lone Star Trail [Talkie Hit From Universal Picture "The Wagon Master" ]" - Ken Maynard (The American Boys Favorite Cowboy)


Set Three: Songs; Disc Two; Track Thirteen: "The Lone Star Trail [Talkie Hit From Universal Picture "The Wagon Master"]" performed by Ken Maynard (The American Boys Favorite Cowboy). "Vocal solo with guitar." Recorded in Los Angeles on April 14, 1930. Original issue Columbia 2310D (W149832).

Kenneth Olin Maynard was born in Vevay, Indiana on July 21, 1895. Little is known of his early life or of his family, other than the fact that Maynard was one of five children.

At the age of 16, Maynard began working as a circus and rodeo performer. He performed as a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1914, and later joined the Ringling Brother's Circus. He served in the U.S. Army during the first World War.

After the war, Maynard found himself performing in Los Angeles when a friend suggested that he seek work in films. In 1923, Maynard began working in silent movies and was soon under contract to Fox Studios. He worked as both an actor and as a stuntman, and his horsemanship and good looks soon made him a cowboy star. Maynard is frequently cited as one of the first "Singing Cowboys" (in fact, Gene Autry made his film debut in one of Maynard's movies). In addition to acting, Maynard also produced numerous films, wrote several screenplays, and directed 1933's The Fiddling Buckaroo. In 1930, Maynard recorded several sides for Columbia, including "The Lone Star Trail," which had been featured in the 1929 film, The Wagon Master in which Maynard had starred in the role of "The Rambler."

In all, Maynard appeared in more than 90 films (IMDB lists 94 films, as opposed to the 300 mentioned by Jeff Place in his notes to the 1997 reissue of the Anthology). He was billed as "the American boy's favorite cowboy."

It is not known when exactly Maynard began his descent into alcoholism, but by 1944 it had become the contributing factor in the end of his film career. In his later years, he made appearances at state fairs and in rodeos. The money he had earned as an actor was lost and Maynard lived out his remaining years in a mobile home, supported by an unknown benefactor (believed by some to be Gene Autry). He made a few final film and television appearences in the early 1970s and died on March 23, 1973. Maynard has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Oh, I am a lonely cowboy and I'm all from the Texas train.
My trade is cinchin' saddles and pullin' bridle rein.
But I can twist a lasso with the greatest skill and ease.
Or rope and ride a bronco most anywhere I please.

Oh, I love the rollin' prairie that's far from trail and strife.
Behind a bunch of longhorns, I'll journey all my life.
But if I had a stake boys, soon married I would be,
To the sweetest girl in this wide world just fell in love with me.

Wee-weeeeeee-eh-wheeee. Weeeee-weeee-wheeeee-weeee-weee.

Oh, when we get on the trail boys, and the dusty billows rise,
It's fifty miles from water and the grass is scorchin' dry.
Oh, the boss is mad and rangy and you all can plainly see.
I'll have to follow the longhorns, I'm a cowboy here to be.

But when it comes a-rain boys, one of the gentle kind.
When the lakes are full of water and the grass is waivin' fine.
Oh, the boss will shed his frown boys, and a pleasant smile you'll see.
I'll have to follow the longhorns, I'm a cowboy here to be.

Wee-weeeeeee-eh-wheeee. Weeeee-weeee-wheeeee-weeee-weee.

Oh, when we get 'em bedded, we think [?] down for the night,
Some horse'll shake his saddle and give the herd a fright.
They'll get to their feet boys, and madly stampede away.
In one moment's time boys, you can hear a cowboy say...

Wee-weeeeeee-eh-wheeee. Weeeee-weeee-wheeeee-weeee-weee.

Oh, when we get 'em bedded, we feel most inclined.
When the cloud'll rise in the west boys, and the fire play on their horns.
Oh, the old boss rides around then. Your pay you'll get in gold.
So I'll have to follow the longhorns until I am too old.

Wee-weeeeeee-eh-wheeee. Weeeee-weeee-wheeeee-weeee-weee.


In some ways, Maynard is the ringer on the original three volume Anthology. While he was by no means the only professional showman whose recordings appear on this set, he is the only one who came to music through another medium (in this case, through film). Maynard appeared to be accomplished on several instruments. He plays guitar on "The Lone Star Trail" and is shown playing the fiddle and the banjo in various film roles. Yet Maynard's biography makes no mention of music during his formative years. While he doubtless learned to play as a boy, music seemed to take a backseat to riding, stunt work, and later acting. While Place's notes indicate that "The Lone Star Trail" is a genuine cowboy song dating to the days of the cattle drives, there is no indication that Maynard knew the song before he was asked to sing it in The Wagon Master. In other words, while the song is a true example of folk music, Maynard does not appeared to have come to the song through the folk process.

Nevertheless, Mayard's recording of "The Lone Star Trail" seems to have made a favorable impression on Smith, who calls the record "one of the very few recordings of authentic "cowboy" singing." While Maynard may have played a cowboy in films, wild west shows, rodeos, and circuses, there is no evidence to support the notion that Maynard was an "authentic" cowboy. In does not seem to have ever worked on a ranch punching cattle.

Questions of authenticity aside, the question remains: Is "The Lone Star Trail" an effective record? In my opinion, it is. Maynard's high, nasal voice may not immediately strike the listener as sounding sufficiently "rugged," but it effectively conveys the mood of the song, which describes the lonely day-to-day existence of a cowboy on the trail. If Maynard wasn't a real cowboy, he appears to be a real actor, if nothing else. He plays the cowboy well enough that we believe in him, especially when he sings the high, keening, wordless chorus. He may not give us the romance of the old west as effectively as later singing cowboys such as Autry or Roy Rogers, but Maynard does conjure up the grim reality of lonely men who were, essentially, skilled laborers doing a dirty job.

"The Lone Star Trail" is the only recording on the original Anthology recorded in California.

The Shameless Plug Department: It's been a long time since I've done a podcast episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather." This is partly due to my busy work schedule and partly due to the fact that I now put together a two-hour weekly radio show in my spare time. I do have plans for a seventh episode of "Where Dead Voices Gather," which I hope to put together in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can still listen to the old episodes.

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a clip from the 1934 film In Old Santa Fe starring Maynard. The clip features Maynard lip synching "As Long As I Got My Dog," which is actually performed by Bob Noland. Note Maynard's famous horse, Tarzan, and his cantankerous sidekick, Cactus. This film also features the debut of Gene Autry who would quickly surpass Maynard in popularity. I also like the way the film messes with chronology. Maynard and Cactus appear to be living in the old west, while in the very next scene a late model car is featured. Only in the movies!



Download and listen to Ken Maynard - "The Lone Star Trail"

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Train On The Island" - J.P. Nestor


Set Three: Songs; Disc Two; Track Twelve: "Train On The Island" performed by J.P. Nestor. "Vocal solo with violin and banjo." Recorded in Bristol, Tennessee on August 1, 1927. Original issue Victor 21070A.

J. Preston Nestor was born in Hillsville, Virginia in 1876. His exact birthdate is unknown as are the details of his early life. What is known is that Nestor, along with fiddler Norman Edmonds, recorded four songs during the legendary Bristol Sessions, including this version of "Train On The Island." Although Nestor was approached about a follow-up session in New York, Nestor declined the offer and never recorded again. He died in 1967 at the age of 91.

Norman Edmonds was born in Wythe County, Virginia on February 9, 1889. He learned the fiddle from his father, which he played in the rural style (with the fiddle held against his chest rather than under his chin). Edmonds was known for his vast repository of songs, many of which have seldom been heard outside of Galax, Virgina. Edmonds recorded under his own name (his version of "Breaking Up Christmas" is available on the excellent Dust-To-Digital holiday collection, Where Will You Be Christmas Day) and remained active through the 1970s. He died in 1976.

"Train On The Island" is the last of five work songs in a row and the second song in a row to feature a train.

Train on the island, since I heard it squeal,
Go tell my true love, I can't hold the wheel.
I can't roll the wheel, Lord, it's I can't hold the wheel.

Thought he heard it blow, Lord, he thought he heard it blow.

Train on the island, since I heard it blow,
Go tell my true love, sick and I can't go.
Sick, and I can't go.

And I can't roll the wheel.

Train on the island, since I've heard it squeal,
Go tell my true love, how happy I do feel.
Thought he heard it blow, Lord, thought he heard it blow.

Train on the island, since I've heard it blow,
Go tell my true love, long as I can go.
Long as I can go.

Lord, he thought he heard it blow.

Train on the island, since I've heard it blow,
Go tell my true love, sick and I can't go.
Sick, and I can't go, Lord, sick and I can't go.

Thought he heard it blow, Lord, thought he heard it blow.


"Train On The Island" features some truly remarkable fiddle and banjo playing. Nestor and Edmonds simulate the sounds of the train on their instruments. Although Smith describes Nestor's vocal as "meager," I disagree. I think his voice perfectly fits the rushed mood of the piece. The words tumble forth in a way that suggests that Nestor was barely aware of them at the time. Lines are started and only half finished, or else finished without being started. Pronouns are dropped, as though Nestor doesn't have time to pronounce every word. The song gives a palpable impression of time running out. No matter how fast Edmonds plays and Nestor sings, it will be too late. It has always been too late.

The song is provides a wonderful contrast for the laid back "K.C. Moan."


The Shameless Plug Department: The sixth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is finally up! It's an all fiddle episode featuring fiddle tunes from both black and white artists, as well as three tracks from the Middle East! Also available on iTunes! Subscribe today so you don't miss a single episode. It's free and it doesn't hurt. Who can ask for more?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's a video of gadaya performing "Train On The Island" on banjo.



Download and listen to J.P. Nestor - "Train On The Island"

Monday, August 2, 2010

"K.C. Moan" - Memphis Jug Band


Set Three: Songs; Disc Two; Track Eleven: "K.C. Moan" performed by Memphis Jug Band. "Vocal trio with harmonica, kazoo, banjo, jug, guitar." Recorded in Memphis on October 4, 1929. Original issue Victor V-38558A.

For biographical information on Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band, see the entry for "Bob Lee Junior Blues"

Recorded just fifteen days before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, "K.C. Moan" is described by Smith as a "quartet arrangement of a well known work song." At the time of this recording, the Memphis Jug Band consisted of Will Shade on harmonica and vocal, Tee Wee Blackman on lead vocal and guitar, Charlie Burse on guitar, Ben Ramey on vocal and kazoo, and Jab Jones on jug. Of the members of the group heard on this recording, only Shade and Ramey are also on "Bob Lee Junior Blues."

I thought I heard that K.C. when she blowed.
Oh, I thought I heard that K.C. when she blowed.
Oh, I thought I heard that K.C. when she blowed.
She blowed like my woman’s on board.

When I get back on that K.C. road,
Oh, when I get back on that K.C. road,
Oh, when I get back on that K.C. road,
Gonna love my baby like I never loved before.

Mmm, mmm, mmm.
Mmm, mmm, mmm.
Mmm, mmm, mmm.
Mmm, mmm, mmm.


"K.C. Moan" is an extremely laid back performance of a very simple song. Only two if the three verses contain lyrics. The two verses with lyrics feature only two lines each (with the first line repeated three times). This song is an object lesson in how a song need not be complex in order to be effective. If Smith's conjecture about the song's origin as a work song is correct, the speaker in the song is likely a prisoner listening with longing to the sound of a train going by, wishing that his woman was on her way to meet him. In the second verse, he sings about going home and how he is going to "love [his] baby like [he] never loved before" once he gets there. As Smith notes, "the train is a constantly recurring symbol" in such songs. Johnny Cash would make use of a similar image in his "Folsom Prison Blues."

Jab Jones, who plays the jug on this recording, appears elsewhere on the Anthology, playing piano on "Expressman Blues"

"K.C. Moan" is the fourth of five work songs in a row.


The Shameless Plug Department: The sixth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is finally up! It's an all fiddle episode featuring fiddle tunes from both black and white artists, as well as three tracks from the Middle East! Also available on iTunes! Subscribe today so you don't miss a single episode. It's free and it doesn't hurt. Who can ask for more?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's John Sebastian and the J-Band performing a version of "K.C. Blues." This video also features some fierce harmonica playing from Sebastian. The performance follows a short interview with Sebastian.



pushkinsuncle performs "K.C. Moan" on slide guitar in this excellent version...



In this video, the Blue Ribbon Jug Band perform "K.C. Moan" in prison stripes!



Download and listen to The Memphis Jug Band - "K.C. Moan"